Tuesday, July 27, 2021

The Effects a Person's Genetic Coding has on Their Ability to Tan

    Whether someone says it or not, when school ends in May everyone has a goal to come back in September tan enough to turn some heads. For some people, it's easy. They can go to their local swim club, lay out for a couple hours a week and achieve tan skin. In contrary others can sit on the beach everyday for a week and end up like this guy. What is the reason for this? Does a person's DNA encoding play into their tanning success? According to Geneticist Marina Sumarocca of Stanford University there are two main factors that come into play when determining someone's susceptibility to tan, burn, or nothing. The first is your natural skin color, the second is your skin's natural response to sunlight. The body's natural skin color is determined based off the body's production of a pigment called melanin. The more melanin in a person's body, the darker their skin is. There are dozens of genetic codings that play into how much melanin is produced by melanocytes, this is why it is so rare to find someone with the same exact skin tone as you. When you sit in the sun all day at the beach, UV Radiation is coming from the sun and your skin is absorbing it. This is what causes either a tan or burn. Melanin can be seen as natural sun screen, if you produce a lot of melanin you will naturally have a dark complexion. This person's body is more equipped to absorb UV radiation, thus a burn does not appear. Whereas someone who has a pale skin tone, and does not have much melanin in their skin would produce a gnarly burn on their body. 

    In the past 50 years, medical advancements have been made on the knowledge of skin cancers. There are three primary skin cancers, cutaneous malignant melanoma, basal cell carcinoma, and squamous cell carcinoma. In the past half century the amount of skin cancer diagnoses has tripled. This is not because people are in the sun more, just that doctors and geneticists are now able to identify unusual markings on the skin easier than before. The cause for these skin cancers directly comes from mutations caused by UV exposure. UV radiation can come from other places besides the sun, like tanning beds. In a study done by physicians, 61 of 63 women diagnosed with melanoma before the age of 30 had used tanning beds. 

Link: https://genetics.thetech.org/ask-a-geneticist/does-ability-tanburn-have-something-do-genetics




  1. I found your post interesting! It’s great that we understand more about how our bodies respond to sunlight according to the amount of melanin in our skin and the genetic factors contributing to producing that amount. It’s also interesting to see how this research affected skin cancer research in identifying them more efficiently based on marks on the skin and factors that can cause it.

  2. Your blog post was very informative and I fount it surprising that genetics can determine how tan a person can get. This helps me to better understand how unnatural tanning methods like tanning beds can cause cancer because they expose the body to more UV rays then the body is genetically able to handle.

  3. This is really cool! I find it really interesting that genetics have an influence on things even such as tanning. It really surprises me that the darker the skin tone and the larger amount of melanin acts as a natural sunscreen. The fact that the UV rays have a large impact on melanoma cases also raises concern for many.